Note - the following post was written by Chelsea, our Chief Mindfulness Officer and creator of "ARC: mindfulness for children."
Thanksgiving and its two alter-egos, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, have just passed. The few stores that hadn’t gilded their displays in Christmas colors the minute Halloween was over have surely done so by now.
The pressure is on and the clock is ticking, but the month of December doesn’t have to feel like a mad dash to the end of the year. Here are a few tips on how to stay mindful and keep the joy-killing stress at bay.
1.) Don’t just be grateful, stay grateful.
We spend Thanksgiving Day surrounded by family and friends in celebration of everything we have because it’s easy to forget just how lucky we are. When we’re embroiled in the everyday events of home life and work, it’s nice to have a designated holiday as a reminder to pause and be thankful for our health and loved ones.
But, gratitude doesn’t need to be relegated to just one day a year or to such big-ticket items.
Carry that sense of appreciation into December and beyond by starting (and committing to!) a gratitude journal and writing down a couple of things that strike you each day - you’d be surprised at the number of things to be grateful for when you actually start to take notice. Little things like another checkout lane opening up in the grocery store or finding a decent parking spot will start making their way onto an ever-growing list of favorite things, and before you know it, Julie Andrews won’t have nothin’ on you.
Noticing the small stuff each day will help keep you grounded, humble, and focused on one awesome thing at a time.
2.) Engage your senses.
Visions of sugarplums may dance in our heads when we think of the holidays, but taste isn’t the only sense that the season can titillate.
Breathe in deeply and immerse yourself in the wonderful scents of the season such as nutmeg, cinnamon, and pine. Watch your breath crystallize into fog in the chilly air, and bathe in the warmth of a fire or a cozy sweater. Have you ever driven down the road on a frosty night with the windows down and the heater blasting on your feet? Do it; it’s like apple pie à la mode for your sense of touch. Listen to the tinkling of bells and laughter, and look at the arrays of colorful lights and happy faces.
The holiday season is a veritable cornucopia of all-around sensory stimulation that you can use to envelope yourself in the present moment.
With everything going on, now is not the time to try out that new super-complicated recipe. Stock up on frozen foods and bust out a few easy casseroles over the coming weeks. Making your menus quick and simple will allow you to spend your evenings on the things that really matter.
Long gift list? Stage a minor rebellion against consumerism and consider limiting your “nice” list to immediate family members only. For large families, Secret Santa gift-giving can lighten your load both mentally and financially. Or, you could ditch the tangibles completely and opt for donating to your loved ones’ favorite charities in their names.
4.) Don't forget to take care of yourself, too.
While the holiday season is the time of year when we think about others the most, it’s important to remember self-care. Take a bath, read a book, get a massage... and don’t skip your meditation sessions! Give yourself permission to say “no," and reassess your obligations. Not every party needs you there (I promise!), so limit the number of commitments you make.
Everyone has their limits, so be aware of and accept yours. Your sanity will thank you for it.
5.) Walk it off.
The temperatures have plummeted and it’s tempting to stay inside under the covers, but taking a walk will do more than help you burn that bird: being outside in the sunlight can be a great mood-booster and help you reset your gauges. The brisk air will help clear your mind, and the exercise will give you more energy to deal with any challenges that might pop up (like a last, lonely cookie that needs to be eaten).
So, bundle up and move it outside!
The moral of the story is that the holiday season is supposed to be a time of warmth and happiness; if you truly enjoy baking 25 dozen cookies each December and hosting a gazillion parties, then do it.
But, stretching yourself thin can quickly dull your ability to stay in the present moment enough to enjoy it.
Re-evaluate your priorities and ditch anything that’s not essential, because your presence - both physical and mental - is the best gift you can give anyway.
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